Vincent, Millard 5-7

Ted Vincent, who has published several articles about the social aspects of the Jazz Age, writes about the Chicago community that played a large role in forming the Jazz Age. The South Side of Chicago housed the cabarets and dance halls where jazz and blues stars became famous, but the article specifically notes that the jazz musicians remember the more “intimate settings” better. Music, being an intimate experience, is always better enjoyed in smaller venues frequented by regulars. The audience has the chance to get to know each other better in smaller sites and the whole experience of music becomes more personal, as opposed to seeing music in large theaters where the audience becomes nothing more than massive blur of color. It is very interesting to read about the places that would eventually evolve into the sort of modern music venues we have today. Mobsters frequented these old-time clubs and eventually took their share of the action from the African American communities living in South Side Chicago who started the legacy. They obviously knew a good business when they saw it.

It is fascinating to read about racial aspects in the history of the Jazz Age. Jack Johnson originated the “black and tan” jazz club, where different races could socialize. Johnson was put on trial for his interracial attitude and white girlfriend and escaped to Mexico, where he engaged in entrepreneurial pursuits by opening a nightclub and a land company. He put his views on paper when he put an ad in the New York Messenger suggesting that “colored people” should move to Mexico because they are discriminated against in the so-called ‘Land of Liberty.’ They would not have to deal with such a horrible thing in Mexico, where racists are punished for their actions. Johnson’s tradition of welcoming all races into his clubs was maintained during this time. Creating a place where all races could enjoy the same type of music would be a very potent way to fight racism in the United States, in my opinion. Places where people subordinate their differences for their love of art, and congregate to enjoy good music and entertainment in order to forge friendships and alliances, is just what the doctor ordered.

Millard writes that jazz recordings in the early part of the century were much different from the improvised music played in bawdy houses and at creole dances in the south. The music was crafted to fit the correct time requirements of acoustic recording and loud percussive noises were removed because it would be too much for the recording stylus to bear, so sticks were gently knocked together. I feel that it is a shame that the stylus could not handle loud noises because music should always be preserved as original, not a watered-down version of what it truly is. The jazz that we know is a creation of the early music industry – the music did not influence the industry, instead the industry made the music conform to a commercial standard. The music’s intensity was diluted in order to market it to white audiences, instead of keeping it as close to the original as possible. Jazz is one of my favorite genres and I was not aware that what I listen to is not what the original artists intended. I feel cheated and lied to. When the true intentions of the artist are lost in translation, in this case from live music to recorded sound, the music loses a large part of its soul.

Thomas Edison successfully enhanced his phonograph, making it more compact and business-oriented. Eldridge Johnson redesigned Berliner’s gramophone and competed with cylinder players. A price war erupted and with the sound machine getting smaller and smaller and the price tag getting smaller and smaller as well, a mass market for recorded sound was created. In Blog #1 I was making comparisons between the early music industry and the modern music industry, and here is another perfect example. Technology companies are well aware that smaller music players are always more impressive, as exhibited by the incredible shrinking MP3 players on today’s market. Humanity’s fascination with tiny gadgets seems to be a recurring theme in the history of technology. Also reminiscent of the music industry of the olden days is today’s fierce price competition between different companies selling similar gadgets and the price competition between comparable sound machines. Another example comparing yesterday and today involves luxury versus mass market goods. The sound machine became a consumer good in the twentieth century, intended for the mass market, instead of remaining a luxury good. Even though the products did not have the technical specifications of the high-end machines, they were still quite adequate. This is comparable to today’s high-end/low-end market – certain companies release cheaper, low-end products that are not as polished as their high-end counterparts so the masses may consume them. Time may pass, but things appear to remain the same.

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10 Responses to “Vincent, Millard 5-7”

  1.    Marya Tambawala Says:

    I agree that it is a shame that jazz songs were not recorded in their original style. If the altered versions are so appealing to such a variety of people, imagine how wonderful the originals mush have been! At least back then people had the option of seeing the live performances, all we are left with now is what has been recorded.

  2.    Amy Herzog Says:

    The limitations of recording are so complex, for all the technical and cultural reasons that you suggest. I’m really interested in hearing the (previously unheard) William Savory recordings from the 1930s and 40s, which I mentioned in class– he recorded a wide variety of artists, and used longer transcription-length discs which will hopefully give us a much better sense of what live jazz performances sounded like during this period. Here’s a link to an NPR broadcast on the collection:

  3.    robert shemanski Says:

    I believe that music is very intimate and people write music base on personal experiences and by what they see in the world that needs to be fixed. I feel this article hits the spot. Some people listen to certain music because they could relate to the artists personal life or some of there lyrics by lessons learned in life or something you believe in like protecting the environment or feeding the hungry. some artists write about these issues and some people believe these issues need to be solved
    the jazz music during that era appear to have no original style though. I feel you need to experience a live experience to get intimate with it. If you just here a recording sound its not the same because you cannot experience it head on. its not the same like today but what is said in the article is true in today’s music world. This proves to me jazz music was recorded the same way artist feel. they create what they feel and initiate it in their music. Unfortunately I could only relate to music I see live and feel the experience. I cannot do this with this jazz music although I wish I could. Limitations of recording were proven to be very complex back then making it tough during that time. I will check out the longer version of the songs recorded on the NPR to try and get a better feeling of jazz music.

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